Sharks

Sharks free-agency decisions: Will winger Gustav Nyquist stay or go?

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Sharks free-agency decisions: Will winger Gustav Nyquist stay or go?

There are firsts in every NHL career.

For winger Gustav Nyquist, that meant waiving his no-trade clause with the Detroit Red Wings and joining the Sharks ahead of February's trade deadline -- the first time he had ever been traded.

Now, just a couple months later, the 29-year-old forward is set to become an unrestricted free agent -- another first in his hockey career -- and possibly could be on the move yet again.

Here's a look at why Nyquist could stay, and why he could be headed to another team before the summer is over.

Why he could stay

Nyquist told reporters at the Sharks' final media availability of the season last month that he was open to staying in San Jose. At the time, there had been no contracts talks -- a thread that appears common among the Sharks long list of pending free agents. 

It's worth noting that was before Nyquist's good friend Erik Karlsson re-signed in San Jose earlier this month. Nevertheless, Nyquist had nothing but good things to say about the Sharks' organization.

"I love it here. I had a great time here," he said on May 23. "I had a great experience, a great three months. It's nothing I've thought about. it's still a month away. I know I don't have a contract for next year yet, but we'll see what happens."

The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun reported Wednesday that San Jose "hasn’t closed the door bringing [Nyquist] back," despite having just over $14.8 million in salary-cap space with only seven forwards under contract.

Although it took Nyquist a bit of time to find where he fit on his new team, he found a home on Logan Couture's wing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In all, Nyquist scored 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 39 regular-season and playoff games. 

Should he stay, Nyquist can help round out the Sharks' forward depth. Being more familiar with the team at this point, the Swedish winger could even have a bigger impact for the Sharks next season. 

Why he could go

About that lack of cap space. The Sharks are rumored to be trying to move players just days ahead of the beginning of free agency in an effort to free up some breathing room, meaning their roster could look drastically different next season whether or not they can keep unrestricted free agents like Nyquist and Joe Pavelski.

In Nyquist's case, the Sharks may not be able to give him a contract that matches his needs. An eight-year veteran with a growing family -- Nyquist and his wife welcomed a baby girl into the world during the Sharks' 20-game playoff run -- likely wants a long-term deal. Nyquist, who becomes a free agent with the expiration of a four-year contract he signed in Detroit, probably is looking for a five- or six-year contract. 

San Jose, at least at this moment, hasn't struck a deal with captain Joe Pavelski. Agreeing to a term long enough for Nyquist might not be in the cards, either. 

[RELATED: Sharks troll Golden Knights in schedule release graphic]

The verdict

As much as Nyquist genuinely seems like he wants to stay in San Jose, it's possible the Sharks have trouble keeping him.

With players currently meeting teams ahead of the free agent market opening up, Nyquist could potentially meet with a team he likes that could later present him with a deal that suits him. LeBrun reported Wednesday that Detroit and the Edmonton Oilers are interested.

That isn't to say the door has completely closed on Nyquist staying in San Jose. However, considering the Sharks' lack of wiggle room under the cap, that will be difficult. 

NHL rumors: Sharks want to trade Aaron Dell to clear salary-cap space

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NHL rumors: Sharks want to trade Aaron Dell to clear salary-cap space

There could be a goalie on the move in San Jose.

SportsNet's Elliotte Friedman reported Tuesday that the Sharks "would like to move Aaron Dell." The 30-year-old has spent his entire three-year NHL career in San Jose, but that could be coming to an end due to the Sharks' salary-cap complications:

San Jose would like to move Aaron Dell, who has a $1.9 million cap hit and $1.6 million in cash. It’s believed the Sharks tried to make it part of the Patrick Marleau trade, which complicated things for an extra 12 hours or so.

The Sharks have just over $14.8 million in salary-cap space, according to CapFriendly.com, and will try to lock up an array of their own restricted and unrestricted free agents.

Both Sharks goalies -- Dell and starter Martin Jones -- experienced down years this past season. Dell appeared in 25 games, four fewer than the previous season, and saw his stats take a significant dip. 

Dell allowed 70 goals -- three more than 2018 in four fewer games -- and his save percentage went from .914 to .886. His goals-against average also rose from 2.64 to 3.17. 

[RELATED: Why ex-Sharks star Marleau wants to play in California]

The Sharks have already made noise this offseason, and don't expect that to stop anytime soon.

Sharks issue qualifying offers to Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and five others

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Sharks issue qualifying offers to Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and five others

The Sharks took their first step towards re-signing restricted free agents Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.

San Jose issued qualifying offers to Meier, Labanc, Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela and three others on Tuesday. That means the Sharks retain their rights as restricted free agents, and would be entitled to compensation if any of the seven players signed an offer sheet with another team. 

Now comes the hard part. The Sharks, who have just over $14.8 million in salary-cap space according to Cap Friendly, risk losing forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist as unrestricted free agents. Retaining all three and re-signing Meier, Labanc and Gambrell will be difficult if not impossible, even if the restricted trio sign bridge contracts. 

Meanwhile, the Sharks didn't issue qualifying offers to seven other restricted free agents. Defenseman Joakim Ryan and forward Rourke Chartier headline the group, all of whom can become unrestricted free agents. Tuesday marked the deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers to RFAs, which would ensure they would receive compensation in the unlikely event of an offer sheet. Now, the Sharks won't receive any compensation should Chartier or Ryan sign elsewhere. 

Ryan, 26, played in 44 regular-season games last year as rookie blueliner Radim Simek seized a spot among the Sharks' top six defensemen. While Ryan didn't play between Jan. 23 and March 13, Simek's season-ending knee injury allowed Ryan to draw back into the lineup from mid-March onward. He suited up for every Stanley Cup playoff game, but played the fewest minutes per game of any of the team's defensemen (8:41) during the postseason. 

With fellow left-handed defensemen Mario Ferraro (2017 second-round pick), Jacob Middleton (made his NHL debut last year) and Tony Sund (35 points in 60 games in Finland last year) still on their entry-level contracts for next season, it's conceivable Ryan has played his last game in teal.

[RELATED: Can cap-strapped Sharks afford to keep Donskoi?]

Chartier, 23, made the team out of training camp and scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 28. He returned to the AHL's San Jose Barracuda for good on Jan. 13, but did not suit up after Feb. 22. Sommer told reporters shortly after that Chartier had "upper-body issues," and the forward was concussed twice in the previous season. 

It's possible that Ryan and/or Chartier re-signs. A year ago Tuesday, the Sharks did not issue a qualifying offer to defenseman Dylan DeMelo. San Jose re-signed DeMelo on July 7, before including him in the package to acquire defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.